Saturday, August 27, 2016

"The chicken does not exist

only in order to produce another egg. He may also exist to amuse himself, to praise God, and even to suggest ideas to a French dramatist.”
~G.K. Chesterton  What's Wrong with the World

For those of us in this small business world, not only do we make people happy with their purchases or even just a moment away from daily madness, but sometimes we also have to amuse ourselves, pray to God for customers, and come up with ideas for a reality TV show! 

In this vintage/antique world, as a shopkeeper, you are never sure what will come through your door or what you will find on a shopping excursion.  Chicken-themed items are always popular, and I know a number of people who have chicks and whose chicks produce some wonderful eggs.  A fresh egg is so much better than one that has made its way around the neighborhood.  Anyway,  I have chicken themed items in the shop, old and new.

So, that brings me to the latest stash that one of my pickers brought...chicken feeders...among some other oddities as well as a neat vintage birdbath...
Back to the chicken feeders...for some women, their husbands will say...what are you buying that for?

If you have chickens, no problem!  Otherwise, you could check out these ideas from various online sites...

So, remember it is not so much shelf sitting stuff now, but what can you do with that "stuff"!  And, as Henry Ford said:
"Business is never so healthy as when, like a chicken, it must do a certain amount of scratching for what it gets.”

Saturday, August 20, 2016

"An antique is

anything old with class."
~Wayne Mattox

The dictionary definition is "a collectible object such as a piece of furniture or work of art that has a high value because of its considerable age."  I prefer the phrase "anything old with class" and would like to add anything that brings you happiness. 

In the United States, the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act defined antiques as, " of art (except rugs and carpets made after the year 1700), collections in illustration of the progress of the arts, works in bronze, marble, terra cotta, parian, pottery, or porcelain, artistic antiquities and objects of ornamental character or educational value which shall have been produced prior to the year 1830." 1830 was the approximate beginning of mass production in the United States. These definitions were intended to allow people of that time to distinguish between genuine antique pieces, vintage items, and collectible objects.  Now antique, vintage, collectible get tossed around like towels in the dryer.

Vintage is the new catch-all phrase...not antique...not rare...kind of requires a year for vintage, but "stuff" could be 10 years old and vintage!  The term that makes me chuckle is "mid-century".  Guess no one wants to admit to the 1950s!  Mid-century sounds more sophisticated.  Google mid-century images, and you get a real mix...urban Ikea...
I know there are collectors who buy thinking of worth, but I know many of those folks now are looking at Beanie Babies and Barbies in those plastic tubs and thinking, what?  Age does not necessarily make something valuable these days in the regular antique world.  Oh, I know the big time shops and auction houses deal in mega money, but most shops and sellers in this business are simply recycling stuff!  Even the big businesses are not doing well with their high-priced merchandise either, and what is fascinating is a Chinese company has purchased a significant stake in one of the industry's most famous names, the auction house Sotheby's.

I often hear people comment that my shop or other shops do not have antiques when, in fact, there are "antiques" scattered throughout the shops.  I will give them my standard's consumer is not the old school collector.  The younger buyers do not need 100 compacts or pieces of McCoy, let alone Occupied Japan (what is that?) figurines or cookie jars (who puts cookies in jars), etc etc etc.
That "curated" display in my shop is a mix of pottery from 1920s...yellow McCoy bowl...a York Pottery pitcher...1930s...a newer print, a recent cookbook and a newly made stuffed velvet pumpkin. 

Up the road at The Attic, from their Facebook page, here is a campaign furniture trunk that was made in Dublin, and it was designed to be used for traveling armies since the time of Julius Caesar and commonly associated with British Army Officers of high social position. Their repurposer Tim added a frame to make a fantastic statement piece without changing this rare trunk.
So, "antiques" can be given new life in the 21st century.  The antique collector...interpret that 2 ways...needs to understand that times change and so does "stuff".  Let things be reborn not merely packed in a box, in the attic, in the garage, in storage.  Even money sitting in the bank these days is not doing, if something brings you joy, get it out...use it...don't lose it...and some of you know your kids are going to carry a lot of the stuff to the curb!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

"There is more treasure in books

than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island."
            ~Walt Disney   

Before the "i" world took over, the i-pods, i-pads, i-phones, there was paper...and words printed on paper, and that brings me to this week's blog...the Bobbsey Twins!  Being a former librarian and a current English professor, I love books...and words on paper...sure, I have my tech, but I still love books.  So, when I see old books, I have to have them, and that is how I got a stash of Bobbsey Twin books.  And, even better...books that look like they were read and loved!
Researching this series turned up some fascinating history.  Created by Edward Stratemeyer, the Stratemeyer Syndicate was the first book purveyor to have its books aimed at children rather than adults.

At a time when most children's books focused on moral instruction, the Stratemeyer Syndicate specialized in producing books that were meant primarily to be entertaining.  The first series that Stratemeyer created was the Rover Boys, published under the pseudonym Arthur M. Winfield. The Rover Boys books were a roaring success - a total of 30 volumes were published between 1899 and 1926, selling over five million copies.
The Bobbsey Twins first appeared in 1904 under the pseudonym Laura Lee Hope, and Tom Swift in 1910 under the pseudonym Victor Appleton.
Stratemeyer published a number of books under his own name, but the books published under pseudonyms sold better(guess simple sells).  Stratemeyer realized that "he could offer more books each year if he dealt with several publishers and had the books published under a number of pseudonyms which he controlled."  Stratemeyer explained his strategy to a publisher, writing that "[a] book brought out under another name would, I feel satisfied, do better than another Stratemeyer book. If this was brought out under my own name, the trade on new Stratemeyer books would simply be cut into four parts instead of three."
Some time in the first decade of the twentieth century Stratemeyer realized that he could no longer juggle multiple volumes of multiple series, and he began hiring ghostwriters, such as Howard Garis and Leslie McFarlane.  Stratemeyer continued to write some books and created plot outlines for others.
While mystery elements were occasionally present in these early series, the Syndicate later specialized in children's mystery series. Stratemeyer wrote and published The Mansion of Mystery in 1911, under the pseudonym Chester K. Steele. Five more books were published in that mystery series, the last in 1928. These books were aimed at a somewhat older audience than his previous series. After that, the Syndicate focused on mystery series aimed at its younger base: the Hardy Boys, which first appeared in 1927, ghostwritten by Leslie McFarlane and others, and Nancy Drew, which first appeared in 1930, ghostwritten by Mildred Wirt Benson, Walter Karig, and others. Obviously the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew were best sellers. 
The Bobbsey Twins are the principal characters of what was, for many years, the Stratemeyer's longest-running series of children's novels, penned under the pseudonym Laura Lee Hope. The first of 72 books were published in 1904, the last in 1979, with a separate series of 30 books published from 1987 through 1992. The books related the adventures of the children of the upper-middle-class Bobbsey family, which included two sets of fraternal twins: Nan and Bert, who were 12 years old, and Flossie and Freddie, who were six.

Stratemeyer wrote the first volume in its original form in 1904, and then 12 other writers penned the remaining volumes.   Two attempts were made to bring back the twins, but it did not work.  I do like the character listing...even included a bully!

  • Mr. Richard Bobbsey, the owner of a lumber yard in Lakeport
  • Mrs. Mary Bobbsey, his wife, a stay-at-home mom (love the description!)
  • Nan Bobbsey, their elder daughter, Bert's twin. She has dark hair and dark eyes
  • Bert Bobbsey, their elder son, Nan's twin. He has dark hair and dark eyes.
  • Freddie Bobbsey, their younger son, Flossie's twin. He has blond hair and blue eyes
  • Flossie, their younger daughter, Freddie's twin
  • Dinah Johnson, the Bobbseys' cook, Sam's wife
  • Sam Johnson, the Bobbseys' handyman, Dinah's husband
  • Snoop, the Bobbseys' cat
  • Downy, the Bobbseys' duck
  • Snap, the Bobbseys' dog
  • Waggo, the Bobbseys' other dog
  • Danny Rugg, the school bully
Initially, the books had the twins age, but then it became apparent that it could quickly change the series so the characters stayed forever 12!

The story of the 1960 update is funny.  Stratemeyer rewrote the stories "motivated by changing technology (automobiles replacing horses and buggies) or changing social standards, particularly in how Sam and Dinah, the African-American cook and handyman, were portrayed." This was done concurrently with the release of a new edition of the series, with picture covers, no dust jackets, and a lavender spine and back cover (replacing the various green bindings that had been used before). Many of the cover paintings were originally dust-jacket paintings that had been added in the 1950s (before a single common dust-jacket painting had been used throughout any given edition), but most were new with the "purple" edition. In all, 20 were completely rewritten, all but two with modernized titles, while 16 were never released in this edition, evidently having been deemed to be dated beyond repair.
It is ironic how old books can carry so much history in addition to the stories within them. And, another thought along this line...
...can you imagine 100 years from now a box of Kindles?

"Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks."
            — Dr. Seuss   

Sunday, August 7, 2016

“Do not compromise

on the quality and your customers will not negotiate on the price.”
 ~Amit Kalantri    

Obviously, Amit of above quote has not dealt in the resale market because that would not matter to the average consumer.  Perhaps in the very high end world...the Sothebys or Christies would not hear the words, "What is your best price?"  And, maybe at a flea market, that is more acceptable than in a store where the people are paying rent, insurance, utilities, taxes, maintenance, credit card fees, etc etc etc.  So, a little insight into the world of the small retailer.

What got me off on this topic was a discussion with a fellow shopkeeper who was at a yard sale and saw ironstone priced quite high.  The seller cited prices she saw on ebay as her reference.  Now, right there is something that has impacted the resale world.  From the thrift shop that copies an ebay listing to justify their prices to a yard sale, the vintage/antique world has become a crap-shoot.  For example, I have this pitcher in the shop compliments of a friend who found it for me...
Her research tracked it to 1883-1913 based on the mark by Johnson Brothers, and then found that it is called Square Ridge that was created in 1890.  Just that little tidbit of knowledge is worth something, right?  It will be in my shop with a $22 price.  Now consider this pitcher..from an ebay listing...see the pricing issue?
Then you have hand-crafted items not Chinese factory produced.  I have these garden ornaments made from flatware and found bolts...they are $15...
I had someone want to "give" me $3.00 for one; needless to say, I was quite taken back and sent her to the dollar store down the road. 

I also have velvet pumpkins made by a woman in Wisconsin, not China...again...priced with American labor in mind.  If you want to pay McDonalds workers $15 an hour, what about the artists who create for you?
I saw an article that talked about how consumers do not think about prices when it comes to certain items...bottled you ask that Starbucks barista if he/she can do better on that $4 latte?  Or, cut-up veggies at the grocery store?  Convenience, right?  So, when you wander into a vintage/antique shop, or attend a nice outdoor show, and now with the fall coming, the various craft shows, consider the work that goes into their merchandise...

Also, with the local famers selling produce now...remember them as well...they are bringing it to you whether you are buying or selling, consider the layers behind all the pricing...and, above all, remember when you buy local, you are supporting more than a corporation!

A co-op down the street closed the end of July.  While it is easy to go online and buy, maybe shops will start to disappear. 
So, just some random thoughts about retail...whether you are buying, creating and/or selling in the small business world, we tend to follow Mother Teresa's motto...
          "Do small things with great love."